Are demos just not worth it?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer magazine.
While in-store demos are known for building trial and a sense of theater at Costco, Trader Joe’s and other outlets, not everyone is happy with them. Respondents to an extensive phone and e-mail survey of frozen and refrigerated food vendors say demos are costly and inefficient compared with other — especially newer — forms of promotion. Most retail respondents agree that there is room for improvement.
Our annual survey about industry issues didn’t even ask about demos, but lots of people volunteered opinions anyway, which surprised me. Retailers seem to understand vendor frustration with demos but say that demos need to be improved rather than discontinued.
"The current programs that the vendor community uses are ‘Mabel with a table.’ They lack pizzazz sufficient to justify the spend and/or deliver the anticipated results," says one chain executive. "We are looking at sourcing these out and taking them to a new level. Eliminating them totally is a bad move because it can drive trial. Companies need to invest in solutions that offer excitement."
Another chain executive says, "There is always a need for balance of trade and demo monies. There’s no doubt that a strong ad with display will normally get more trial for a new item than demos. But there is need for some theater in the store and I have seen some brands fail because they did not allocate at least some funding to demo. Again, it’s balance."
But like I said, vendors are generally less than thrilled about demos. Here are some typical comments:
- "We control the demos by contracting certain days that they have to do them and give each demo person packets on the execution, etc. With that, we also understand that some demo people aren’t very good no matter what you do. Bottom line, our biggest issue with demos is you’re hitting only those consumers who are in the store during those hours on that day — a pretty small audience in most cases."
- "Demos are very expensive and are done for the retailer’s benefit. You have one day, four to six hours, inexperienced demo people, and the demo could be scheduled during the week — not a heavily shopped day. We have for 30 years given them our best shot and it is a losing way to promote. A TPR (Temporary Price Reduction) or electronic coupon which can be good from two to four weeks is far more effective and the way the shopper buys today. We refuse to do demos and just turned down an account because the buyer wanted $6,000 worth of demos and a demo plan in place."
Aside from all that, vendors think demos are a dandy idea.
Which is closer to the truth? Do retailers impose high fees and controls, thereby making demos a profit center rather than productive promotional opportunities, or do vendors just hate spending on promos?